Sunday, November 26, 2006

Art - Advertising - Capitalism - BAM!

I just finished reading John Berger's 1972 book Ways of Seeing. What I thought would be an interesting book about the act of looking, ended up really blowing my mind politically. It took what I know about advertising, and made the connections to political apathy, Art with a capital A, possession/consumerism, pop culture... Let me give you a sample.

"Glamour cannot exist without personal social envy being a common and widespread emotion. The industrial society which has moved towards democracy and then stopped half way is the ideal society for generating such an emotion. The pursuit of individual happiness has been acknowledged as a universal right. Yet the existing social conditions make the individual feel powerless. He lives in the contradiction between what he is and what he would like to be. Either he then becomes fully conscious of the contradiction and its causes, and so joins the political struggle for a full democracy which entails, amongst other things, the overthrow of capitalism; or else he lives, continually subject to an envy which, compounded with his sense of powerlessness, dissolves into recurrent day-dreams."

And so people buy lottery tickets and watch "reality" television and care more about what Paris Hilton does than George Bush.

"Publicity turns consumption into a substitute for democracy. The choice of what one eats (or wears or drives) takes the place of significant political choice. Publicity helps to mask and compensate for all that is undemocratic within society. And it also masks what is happening in the rest of the world."

Thus American Idol boasts that no American president has ever gotten as many votes - 63 million in last spring's finale - as their show.

"All hopes are gathered together, made homogeneous, simplified, so that they become the intense yet vague, magical yet repeatable promise offered in every purchase. No other kind of hope or satisfaction or pleasure can any longer be envisaged within the culture of capitalism."

The book ends with the image of Magritte's On the Threshold of Liberty, and the invitation and declaration, "To be continued by the reader..."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Comedians in Dramatic Roles

After we saw Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction on Thanksgiving, (which I quite liked) we were talking about other comedians' first (and/or notable) forays into dramatic roles, and how Stranger Than Fiction compared to the others. Here are some we came up with:

Ben Stiller in Permanent Midnight (same year as Your Friends & Neighbors, but I hate that movie; Reality Bites and Flirting with Disaster were both earlier, but not as good as Permanent Midnight)

Brendan Frasier Gods and Monsters

Adam Sandler Punch Drunk Love (looking back, I'm not sure that movie holds up)

Jim Carrey Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (ok, Truman Show was way before, but nothing holds a candle to Eternal Sunshine)

Bill Murray Lost in Translation (yes, all Wes Anderson movies, yes Ed Wood; I never saw The Razor's Edge)

Yeah, yeah, Robin Williams. I'm too lazy to look up his films, whatever.

Please add your faves!

Celebrity Sightings part deux

I saw Juliet Landau again, this time at Sankai Juku's performance at Royce Hall. I believe I read somewhere that she used to be a ballet dancer... maybe she does butoh now?

And I saw Toni Basil at Eiko & Koma's performance at Kaufman Hall at UCLA. I am not using Toni's picture from "Mickey" (even though I still own the 45) because she is a choreographer (hey, David Bowie's Glass Spider tour!), and I want to picture her here as more than a one-hit wonder.

I have to get over my celebrity shyness and just go talk to people!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Celebrity Sightings

It seems the Chinese Theater is the place to go for celebrity sightings, even at a Sunday matinee of Borat. And this is just in the movie theater itself. If we'd wanted to go for some heavy-duty sightings, we could have checked out the Happy Feet premiere (rather than hanging out in Virgin) or we could have hung around for the Deck the Holidays premiere later in the day.

Sitting next to Karl was John Billingsley, best known to me as Dr. Phlox on Star Trek Enterprise. He's also in that show The Nine. I've never seen it, but I've seen the billboard. He and his companion really enjoyed the movie.

Also enjoying Borat this afternoon was Doris Roberts. I know she was on Everybody Loves Raymond (except, evidently, me), but I prefer to think of her in Remington Steele.

Yesterday, walking down Melrose, I spotted Dagney Kerr, Buffy's roommate Kathy at the beginning of season 4. She seemed to be looking at a storefront space with a friend and discussing what they would be able to do with the space. OK, I recognize that she is not a celebrity to most people, but she was on Buffy!

My most exciting celebrity sighting so far was of Juliet Landau (Drusilla on Buffy and Angel). She was in line in front of me at Oguri's performance at Electric Lodge a few weeks ago, and asked me to save her spot in line. I of course said yes!

This does not count all the celebrities I met at a benefit for World Can't Wait back in September. Let's just say at one point I was sitting at a table with Michelle Phillips next to me, and Ed Asner and Gore Vidal across from me! I was also excited to talk to Debbie Allen. I was most excited, however, to see Rene Auberjonois. Odo!!!

Friday, November 10, 2006


That's the vanity license plate I just saw on a H2 Hummer (yes, the BIIIIG one) driving down Pico near Century City.

I'm still speechless.


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